Skip to content

What is vegetable tanned leather and why choose it?

Offering many varied and original shoe models does not mean that we should develop sloppy and disposable creations that are quickly forgotten. Our products are designed to make a everlasting impression on you and to be worn as long as possible on your feet. Without any risk for your skin. Since the beginning, Melvin & Hamilton has chosen to use noble materials, and wishes to maintain this standard of quality in its creations.

The vast majority of our shoe models are made from vegetable-tanned leather, a natural process that allows us to go from a raw hide to a finished leather. What is vegetable tanned leather, what are the steps and why use it? Here is an overview of the advantages and attributes of this method of tanning leather, a key feature of Melvin & Hamilton shoes.

01 Vegetable tanned leather – What is that?

Melvin & Hamilton shoes in vegetable-tanned leather

Leather is a raw material that is closely linked to the history of mankind, and working with this skin has been known for thousands of years for the design of clothing, blankets and even habitats. To soften, preserve and protect it, conservation processes have been developed, which are called tanning. Conventional leather tanning follows a protocol that requires many aggressive chemicals; this is not the case with vegetable tanning, which is a much more natural way of working the leather.

Vegetable tanning will stabilise the raw material and allow this raw hide to become real leather, robust and shiny. It exploits the active principles of plants and their natural properties, such as the tannic acids: bark, branches, leaves or even fruit are used at each stage of the tanning process, which can take from one to three months.

02 The different stages of vegetable tanning

Leather in the shoe factory - Melvin & Hamilton

Each step of the tanning process allows the hide to soak up the tannic acids from the plants, until the mixture is optimal and the leather is of a superior quality. The first mixture must be low in concentration and gentle, so it will not attack the hide. The hide is soaked in three different basins to which different mixtures are added during processing. This fermentation and slow decantation, as well as these multiple treatments, allow the leathers to gain in strength and quality, and to make them a durable raw material after the three months necessary for tanning.

At the end of this treatment, the hides are stacked for several days before they can be used. It would be possible to speed up the tanning process by adding chemical and synthetic agents, but this would lose the totally natural aspect of vegetable tanning, and that is not the point; taking your time to create a quality product is the key word.

03 Vegetable tanned leather – Why?

Confection Melvin & Hamilton

There is a real difference between vegetable tanning and conventional tanning which requires the use of chemicals. The most common method used in the fashion industry today is also the most controversial: chrome tanning. Chromium is used in about 85% of leather tanning. It is a very aggressive chemical process that is far from the natural image of the skin used in fashion. The use of chromium salts is extremely harmful to the environment and to humans. Despite this, it is the most common method in the textile industry, as the process is faster, cheaper and resource intensive, and of course, cheaper. It is also a tanning process that requires considerably less know-how.

We decided a long time ago to make maximum use of the vegetable tanning principle, even though it is more expensive. Leather is the element that gives a Melvin & Hamilton shoe its character and makes the brand name possible. High quality vegetable tanned leather allows the creation of varied, original and unique shades and colours to be, that you will not find anywhere else. Chemical tanning with chrome kills the properties of the skin, the leather becomes a dead and frozen material, without character; whereas vegetable tanning allows the leather to keep its suppleness, shine, relief... In other words, it gives personality to the leather. This natural process needs it's time to prepare the hide for a second life, and gives it perfect solidity and longevity.


Your cart is currently empty.

Start Shopping

Select options